It’s no secret: connecting to free WiFi is super dangerous. It takes an inexperienced hacker just minutes to access your sensitive data and steal information like credit cards or bank details. This is because free WiFi—like you’d find at airports or coffee shops—is unencrypted. And unencrypted WiFi is like a free buffet for cybercriminals.
But which airports are most dangerous?
These are the 10 airports where you’re most likely to get hacked.
Least secure airports
10. Tampa – St. Petersburg – Sarasota, FL (Threat score — 8.3)
9. Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL (Threat score — 8.5)
8. West Palm Beach – Ft. Pierce, FL (Threat score — 8.9)
7. Jacksonville, FL (Threat score — 8.9)
6. Birmingham, AL (Threat score — 9.0)
5. Providence, RI (Threat score — 9.0)
4. Houston, TX (Threat score — 9.2)
3. Charlotte, NC (Threat score — 9.8)
2. Memphis, TN (Threat score — 9.8)
1. Las Vegas, NV (Threat score — 10)
The results were attained by a study that collected data from more than 250,000 people who traveled through the nation’s 45 busiest airports. The collection period lasted five months. The data accumulated was then analyzed to look at device vulnerabilities and airport WiFi network risks.
With a maximum score of 10/10, Las Vegas topped the list for the least secure airport. According to the study:
“Las Vegas exceeded the national average in every network and device vulnerability category. The use of public WiFi in hotels, restaurants and casinos, combined with the State of Nevada’s vastly underfunded cybersecurity budget, help propel Las Vegas to the distinction as America’s most insecure city. One would have to imagine that serving as the annual host for two of the world’s largest cybersecurity and hacking events – Blackhat and Defcon – is also not advantageous to its score.”
In total, there is a 43% probability that when you travel through Las Vegas airport you are connecting to either medium-risk or high-risk WiFi networks. This impacts not only the local population but also the 6.5 million convention attendees and 35.5 million tourists.
It’s also worth noting that Florida airports hold 4 spots in the top 10.
So what airports were the most secure?
Most secure airports
10. Kansas City, MO (Threat score — 6.5)
9. Salt Lake City, UT (Threat score — 6.5)
8. Fresno-Visalia, CA (Threat score — 6.5)
7. Phoenix, AZ (Threat score — 6.5)
6. Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM (Threat score — 6.4)
5. St. Louis, MO (Threat score — 6.3)
4. Seattle-Tacoma, WA (Threat score — 6.3)
3. Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA (Threat score — 6.2)
2. Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC (Threat score — 6.2)
1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA (Threat score — 5.8)
Virginia is seen as one of the leading states in cybersecurity, and it shows with Richmond nabbing the top spot for the most secure airport in the nation as well as Norfolk slotting in at number 3.
The truth is, though, that all airports are insecure. Tens of thousands of people each day connect to free airport WiFi, and in doing so, they’re exposing their data to hackers.
What can you do to protect yourself?
We talked about free WiFi being unencrypted. To be safe, therefore, you need to encrypt that connection. This might sound complex but it’s really not. Simply download Hotspot Shield for free and click “connect” from within the app. Hotspot Shield instantly encrypts your data, effectively providing a secure tunnel for it to travel through that is impenetrable by hackers. In short, you become invisible online.
Make sure you have the Hotspot Shield app on all of your devices to keep yourself secure. Oh, and watch out when traveling to Vegas.